ROME, Italy - Alizé Cornet scored her first Top 10 victory of the season with a 6-1, 6-4 first-round upset of Aryna Sabalenka at the Internazional BNL d'Italia on Tuesday.
The win over the World No.10 is Cornet's 18th career Top 10 victory, and first since beating Angelique Kerber at last summer's Coupe Rogers in Montreal.
In addition, the Top 10 victory is her first on clay since she bested compatriot Caroline Garcia at the 2018 Volvo Car Open.
"I'm very pleased, very pleased to be in the second round. The match today was a little bit out of rhythm...and tough conditions for both of us," Cornet said after the match.
"The whole thing for me was to be solid, to play my game, to fight until the end, and that's what I did. I think it's a solid win overall."
Sabalenka racked up 40 unforced errors over the course of one hour and 14 minutes, allowing the former Rome finalist ample opportunities to break serve in the second-round encounter.
She'd need those chances, as Cornet won six straight games in the opener after losing serve to begin the match, and won five of the last six games of the match from a 3-1 deficit in the second set.
Cornet, who reached the final in Rome in her main draw debut 11 years ago before losing to Jelena Jankovic, will next face Spain's Carla Suárez Navarro, who was en route to a milestone victory elsewhere at the Foro Italico as Cornet completed the upset on Court Centrale.
"I have some amazing memories from 2008, when I qualified and made it to the final. That was really great. I was a kid, I was 18 years old, coming up to the very best ranking of my career," Cornet reflected.
"After that, in the years following this great performance, I didn't play so great here in Rome. This year, it's really the first year in 11 years, that I played good tennis here.
"I'm a qualifier again, I'm in the second round, so who knows where I can go in this tournament? I'll try my best for sure."
The Spaniard scored the 500th WTA main draw match win of her career with a 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 first-round win over Ukrainian teenager Dayana Yastremska.
Suárez Navarro flipped the script of a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 defeat she suffered to Yastremska at the Australian Open, as she hung on in a final set where she led 5-1 and needed to serve for the match twice.
The Ukrainian saved a match point to win back-to-back games, but could not convert on one of two break point chances she held in the match's final game to get proceedings back on serve.
"We just saw each other in the locker room, and I said, 'Carla, it's been a while!' We've had a couple of really tough battles in the past. She's a good friend, and everybody knows she's one of the nicest people on tour," Cornet said.
"I'm expecting something very different than today. Much more rhythm, rallies on clay. She's an amazing player, most beautiful backhand on tour, so I'm looking forward to this battle."
Another qualifier in Maria Sakkari and Daria Kasatkina also scored first-round wins early on Tuesday, with the Greek No.1 beating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 6-1, 7-5, and the Russian rallying from 5-2 down in the second set to beat Irina-Camelia Begu, 6-2, 7-6(5).